THE FACTS: The Lakers welcomed back one of their missing pieces Sunday night, then went out and re-discovered what it feels like to win again. Dwight Howard returned after a three-game absence because of a shoulder injury and scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the 113-93 victory against the visiting Cavaliers at Staples Center, helping the Lakers end a six-game losing streak, their longest in six years.
QUOTABLE: "It's a baby step, but it's a step."
-- Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni
THE STAT: The Lakers shot a season-high 58 percent from the floor, converting 40 of 69 shots. They reached that height by sharing the ball, finishing with 32 assists, one shy of another season high.
TURNING POINT: Maybe it was the return of Howard but the Lakers had a different look in their eyes when they took the floor against the Cavaliers. By the time the opening quarter was through, the Lakers had shot 65 percent while building a 37-20 lead. They assisted on 10 of 13 baskets in the opening 12 minutes and even converted all eight foul shots. Despite a hiccup by L.A. late in the first half, Cleveland never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
HOT: The best players for the Lakers were at their best against Cleveland. Kobe Bryant shot 9-for-14, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range, and scored 23 points. Howard made 9-of-11 shots and Steve Nash was 3-for-4 with 10 points and nine assists. Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark helped cover for power forward Pau Gasol, who missed his fourth straight game with concussion symptoms, combining for 29 points and 13 rebounds.
QUOTABLE II: "Earl Clark continues to play really well. He has a lot of body and that helps us. We're able to put him on different guys with the length."
NOT: It seems like more players have fallen out of the rotation for the Lakers this season than have started games. The latest former regular to sit and watch was shooting guard Jodie Meeks. He had appeared in the last 31 games -- playing 32 minutes as recently as Tuesday against visiting Houston -- but didn't play against the Cavaliers until mop-up duty in the final minutes. D'Antoni elected to use Darius Morris and Chris Duhon as backcourt substitutions against Cleveland. As for the Cavaliers, starting small forward C.J. Miles made his second shot of the game, then missed his next seven, finishing 1-for-9. Miles shot 29.5 percent from the floor during the month of November but then improved to 46.7 in December. He's back down to 35.2 percent this month.
GOOD MOVE: After a rather quiet opening 27 minutes in which he was the only starter without a point, Lakers forward Metta World Peace made up for that in hurry with just under nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. He recorded two steals, a 3-point basket and a three-point play in a 15-second span that gave the Lakers their biggest lead to that point, 69-49. His second steal led to a fast break in which his slam dunk attempt rattled out and rose a couple feet above the rim before falling back through. With his momentum carrying him under the basket, World Peace took a second to kiss the hand of a female courtside spectator, then stepped to the line and completed the three-point play. World Peace has 16 steals in the last four games.
QUOTABLE III: "I think our defensive intelligence tonight was pretty good."
BAD MOVE: After a dominant opening quarter, the Lakers extended their lead to as much as 19 in the second then began playing as if they dipped their fingers in butter. They committed seven consecutive turnovers late in the first half, allowing Cleveland to cut the deficit to nine with a minute remaining. The Lakers finished with nine of their 22 giveaways in the second quarter, ultimately taking a 57-45 lead into the locker room.
NOTABLE: The Lakers were playing a team with a worse record then them for just the second time in the last 11 games. They lost the other to the 76ers. ... The Lakers became the last NBA team to win a game in 2013. ... L.A. came in shooting 26.3 percent from 3-point range in last six home games. They were 13-for-25 against the Cavaliers (52 percent).
UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Tuesday vs. Milwaukee, Thursday vs. Miami, Sunday @ Toronto. For the Cavaliers, Monday @ Sacramento, Wednesday @ Portland, Saturday @ Utah.